If you had been sailing or motoring on the Oakland Estuary during the past few weeks, you might have imagined you were seeing an apparition — not just one 19th-century tall ship in dry dock, but two. Your eyes were not playing tricks on you. Hauled out at Alameda’s Bay Ship and Yacht were none other than the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park’s 1895, 219-ft schooner C.A. Thayer, and Call of the Sea’s 132-ft tall ship Matthew Turner. It would have been easy to imagine the same scene in the late 1800s. But this is not the 1800s, it’s 2020. Both ships are 19th-century designs, but built 125 years apart.
C.A. Thayer was in dry dock for a million-dollar-plus refit, including a new deck house forward, a chain locker, some plank and structural work, and paint throughout. Matthew Turner was in for a basic haulout and Coast Guard inspection.
Most Latitude readers are familiar with Matthew Turner, launched April 1, 2017, in Sausalito after four years of construction by an ‘army’ of mostly volunteers. Following the launch were three years of work fitting out the mast, spars, rigging, sails, interior, electrical, plumbing and safety equipment, and several Coast Guard tests, including a stability test. Despite delays due to the pandemic, it was three years almost to the day after the launch that the tall ship passed her final USCG crew-overboard drill in April and received the coveted COI — US Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection. Following the COI were six months of sea trials, and limited-passenger trips to comply with social-distancing and COVID-19 protocols.
Due to the pandemic, a planned winter voyage to Mexico had to be postponed. But before the winter layup, it was time for a haulout, and also the first dry-dock inspection since Matthew Turner got its Certificate of Inspection. The ship’s last haulout was in May 2019, but judging by the condition of its bottom, planks, rudder and paint, one would never have known. The planks and seams were still tight, fair and smooth, there were no leaks, and the hull was found to be in excellent shape. A thorough inspection of the bottom could only find two almost inconsequential items — a small spot the size of a quarter where a few teredo worms had had a ‘snack’, and a similar-size spot at the bottom of the rudder where a small fiberglass seam had opened. Both were noted, readily treated, and repaired.
Examining a traditional wooden ship like this is good practice for the local Coast Guard inspectors. An inspected passenger-carrying sailing vessel like Matthew Turner is a rarity these days, especially on San Francisco Bay. The Coast Guard inspectors actually welcome the opportunity to come out and examine the vessel. As Matthew Turner project director Alan Olson pointed out, “They learn a lot on Matthew Turner.”
After the brief but thorough inspections were complete, and all systems inside and out checked by the Coast Guard inspectors, the yard crew set about to work on the sanding, prepping and painting. Dry-dock protocol called for the bottom prep and paint to be done by the shipyard, and judging by the results at launch last Friday, the capable crew from Bay Ship and Yacht did themselves, and Matthew Turner, proud.